Shadow Walker in our work together informed me that he thought I had created a dominant system with suffering. A system can be understood in psychobabble as a rule that the child adopts in an effort to make sense of their world, whatever the circumstances they find themselves born into. For me, it was a crazily repressed, Dutch Reformed, women un-friendly bubble within the rest of suburbian society nevermind the world. This bubble would then see to a violent bursting, absent father and siblings, a mother hospitalized with "psychosis" and a little old me trying to decide how to conduct myself in the world, while recovering from childhood rape and it's repercussive abortion. I apparently, had created several systems or threads of a system about this but the predominant one was suffering. I should also say that in this paradigm, which if your into labels is derived from Radical Acceptance, our systems are deeply connected to love, our sense of abundance or lack of it, our perceptions and mis-perceptions about it. Seeing that we're all pretty much walking around un-rooted and looking for some glimpse of a reflection of ourselves, some familiarity in something or too numbed out to even notice whats missing, love, or our mysterious human relationship with it seems to be an issue for everyone. It also makes sense we'd all have our own quirky relationship with it, having the passion to drive us to absolute madness, blissful joy and suicidal heartbreak. So...my experiences as a child, in this view, taught me that in order to receive love I would need to suffer. "And so", Shadow Walker explained "you continue to create situations which make you suffer so that you will get love".
He has a way of stating things matter of factly, just as simply as the sun rose at 4:52 this morning. Radical Acceptance after all was not about naming your shameful dysfunction, that part of you that was broken, that needed to be repaired, that you best get busy on before it has time to see the daylight of exposure. No, Radical Acceptance was about saying "Yes, I am this, how am I going to engage it?"
The only problem was the choice of how to engage it. The perfectionist in me that needed to draw a duality to outcome brought with it a staggerdly shame. On one hand I would need to learn not to engage my suffering in exchange for love because let's face it, that was a lifeboat, huddled with wayy to much weight and than hoping it wouldn't sink. And I couldn't ignore that a mainstay of my life had been suffering, but a big part of me keeps wanting to defend it. The reality was however, that I had been trying "not to suffer" for a very very very very long time. But I suppose thats not really "radically accepting" my tendency to create suffering, thats still looking for a way to change that picture. Our patterns after all on many traditional paths involve the learning of lessons, the cultivation of knowledge, the knowing that our struggles, our lives, our experiences brought forth the very tools already embedded within us to be born into the world representing our contribution.
If I asked Elder Becker about me and this system of suffering I'm sure she would say "nothing, you can't do anything about it. Your too young, maybe when your much older you'll be able to tweak it, but for now all you can do is watch it. Tonight between the enclaves of suffering and creativity and suffering and disease, I got to noticing, that it just might be this system of suffering that has always driven this pursuit of knowledge related to suffering. The questions that plagued me about mental health, unhappiness, the answers that I couldn't provide my clients, or the theories that never really gave the whole picture and the despair I felt about the pretending to know social worker role and the openly unknowing human one and the possible pain I would pentrate as a result was what drove me to stopping. But I only stopped after the holes of new knowledge began poking through the what used to be knowledge i had once so plainly understood, but after my experiences with the guessing game of psychiatry and what it did to my mom, I couldn't be the experminter. But in the meantime, I've uncovered some pretty important questions, brought light to many shadowed areas and continue to search for better answers, a means of not neccessarily understanding but being with this life. Does it not make sense that my continuous fascination with the human experience and the existential longings/knowings is consistent with a system of suffering, but also one that spurs me forward. Maybe it's what brought me here and doesn't need to be acted out anymore. Maybe in accepting it, I will become aware of how and when and what i do when interacting with it and bring forth some wisdom to share about the nature of suffering. Maybe that is my gift, with a variety of mediums to which to actualize it.
Is suffering a disease? Garry Greenberg in his book "manufacturing depression" raises similar questions about suffering, here speaking specifically of "depressive" suffering
"It could be that the depression epidemic is not so much the discovery of a long unrecognized disease but a reconstitution of a broad swath of human experience as illness. Depression is, in this sense, a culturally transmitted disease, the contagion carried not by some microbe or gene, but by an idea transmitted by subtle and not-so subtle means including clever direct to consumer prescription drug advertising, ruthless drug company dominance of medical education, research and practice, those dire statistics, state laws ordering insurance companies to pay for the treatment of depression as they would for diabetes or cancer therapies a new DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) with even more subspecies of depression and casual conversatins with diagnosed and medicated friends. ......The DSM is an unparalleled literary acheivement. It renders the varieties of psychospiritual suffering without any comment on where it comes from, what it means, or what ought to be done about it. It reads as if authors were standing on Mars observing our discontents through a microscope".
I had also been wondering about this for awhile. Another major obstruction to managing the rigidities of therapy in the Western structure. In the works of art, the stories of the sacred, the pilgrimage from seperation, brokenness and alienation to wholeness, healing and balance, the journey often demanded a series of "breakdowns". As Jeff Brown would call "breakthroughs", a coureagous ability to cave within to the depths of one's breakdown in the death preceding the re-birth of transformation. That, in my experience is the process. But just because the breakdown is often neccesary in order to break through , that doesn't mean the rationale behind the fall makes the fall a joyful one. It is often full of suffering, no matter how controled, how obscure, how bizarre or how quiet, it is suffering and who says suffering is bad after all? In one of my favorite poems about the human emotional experience, the human is compared to a house full of rooms which was open to any emotion sweeing the house, the wise one between the lines asked us to welcome each one at the door regardless how beseiging to entertain them and allow them to teach. For now, in a culture that uses my crevices of psychic weakness, my personal neurosis and imperfect perfection to sell me another something therefore also reminding how much that hole inside should never be faced but continually stunted, I have to do an incredible amount of self supprotive talking to just allow myself to be there with it, that suffering.
My relationship with my soul has taught me that at other times suffering can be a dis - ease. A fixation on my seperation and alienation, a kind of self-perplexed narcicissim. That in the moments I let go of all of these questions, directions, needs of explanation and just rest into it, joy employs.
Today, in the midst of all my systems of suffering, I felt joy. A radiant, awe-inspiring day bursting with joy at all the seams. A creative Granny shack, was the place that finally took the chance on an abondoning therapist trying to make it simple. I loved this place and stopped here often in search of Nag Champa, shell necklaces, wood rings and Lucid Dreaming teas. A little old church, converted to a house, than converted to the Grannie shack. Sparkles, the owner of the store was flamboyant, creative and full of an easy non-challant acceptance of people, process and things. She spoke sometimes of her own inner battles, but she dealt with it, by avoiding process, ditching scheduling and rigidity. The only thing she asked of you is that you did what you needed to do as an employee, but she didn't care how you did it and expected you to do it your own way. She encouraged me to express myself, to use this space as a space to create. "If the sun is shining and you feel you've been indoors too long, go outside and garden" she said. "Get creative with the store, put it in your own way...and don't worry if i move something, it doesn't mean anything about you, just a whole lot about me".
Her store reflected her. Every corner of the store was eccentrically different from the other, yet all the peices weived themself into a bright and brilliant eccentricity. She lived in Bali, part of every year collecting products for her stores. Ran the stores the rest of the months, one in a quaint little country town and the other in cottage country up North. She had started as an artisan, a beader on the craft market and now married to another crafter with eccentric shops and lots of room for sustained creativity, she could continue to bead at her counter, selling the things that represented her and talking to people that came in search of her expression rather than attempt to change it. And in one day, just one with six customers, I already began to see how her little cove of the things she thought were beautiful, however weird and outlandish, was also a refuge for those who were wrestling with their own spaces of conformity and authenticity, their stories of what they did with their lives and how those events connected them to the spaces within this store. And here, with the garden and the beautiful things that i too eccentrictly felt connected to, the gathering of oddness, and the appreciation for what is and what can be if only within our little haven of a store...was exactly what I needed. And in those moments, I found joy.
PS. Who else gets a hug from their boss in the morning and at the end of the day? Thank you Sparkles for allowing me just a little time in your soulasfying refuge.